We watched the horrific acts live as they happened on Jan. 6 when insurrectionists stormed the Capitol. In the months since, we’ve seen more videos and photos and listened to firsthand accounts of what happened on one of the darkest days of our democracy.
And yet, on Tuesday, when we saw those videos again, and listened to the testimony of four law enforcement officials who were attacked that day, you couldn’t help but be shaken as if it was all happening for the first time.
On Tuesday, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol held its first hearing. The testimony was stunning.
Metropolitan Police Department officer Daniel Hodges referred to those who attacked the Capitol as “terrorists.” He said one told him, “You will die on your knees.”
Capitol Police officer Aquilino Gonell said it felt like a “medieval battlefield,” adding, “I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, ‘This is how I’m going to die, trampled defending this entrance.’”
Gonell said, “The rioters called me traitor, a disgrace, and shouted that I — an army veteran and a police officer — should be executed.”
Aside from the violent physical attacks, there was testimony of racial slurs used by those attacking the police.
The officers also talked about what they hope the hearing accomplishes, and they clearly pointed fingers at former President Donald Trump.
Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn testified, “There was an attack carried out on Jan. 6. And a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.”
As far as Trump and other Republicans who are downplaying what happened on Jan. 6, D.C. police officer Michael Fanone slammed his fist on the table at one point and said, “Nothing, truly nothing, has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day. And in doing so, betray their oath of office.”
It was a powerful opening day.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, one of the two Republicans on the committee, told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “I thought the most important part was the opportunity for the American people to hear directly from these — these heroes, these men who fought for us. … And they had said that they, frankly, understood that they might die. And — and to hear, you know, the rioters and those in the mob, in one instance, say to these police officers, you’re going to die tonight, I think those kinds of facts are so important as we are discussing why this can never happen again and what we need to do to ensure the people who did it are held accountable.”
CBS News’ Major Garrett said the testimony “makes it abundantly clear that the retelling of that story will be emotional and painful, because the day itself was emotional and painful. … They spoke memorably about the pain they suffered, physical injuries they sustained.”
Another CBS News correspondent, Catherine Herridge, said, “There was an emotional depth to this testimony that was so impactful. … There was something about combining that video with the personal stories of these men that was so powerful … to look into their eyes and still see the ripple effect of the trauma. It felt to me today like the wounds of these four officers in some respects became the shared wounds of the nation.”
Of course, this story will continue to be a politically divided one, as many Republicans (although certainly not all) and conservative media outlets will continue to downplay what happened that day.
But, Fox News’ Bret Baier said, “While Republicans politically are saying that this is a partisan effort, and they charge that it’s not going to get to the questions that they think are important about Jan. 6 — why were the Capitol police so ill-prepared or what happened that day — you cannot watch this testimony and say that it’s not a big deal.”
Then again …
While it’s just a snapshot, CNN’s Oliver Darcy tweeted out what the chyrons said on some of the cable news networks not long after the Jan. 6 hearing began.
CNN: “FRONTLINE OFFICERS GIVE FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT OF CAPITOL RIOT”
MSNBC: “FIRST HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING INVESTIGATING 1/6 ATTACK”
FOX: “PELOSI-SELECTED CMTE HOLDS FIRST JAN 6 HEARING”
NEWSMAX: “OFFICERS TESTIFY IN DEM-LED JAN. 6 HEARING”
You notice that Fox News and Newsmax both center on who is leading the hearing — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats.
As far as the networks, ABC’s chyron at the time said, “HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE HEARING INTO CAPITOL RIOT ON JANUARY 6.”
CBS had: “POLICE OFFICERS TESTIFY IN HEARING INTO JAN. 6TH RIOTS.”
It should be noted that One America News did not air Tuesday’s hearing. NBC was carrying the Olympics, but MSNBC showed the hearing.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended all Americans — even those who have been vaccinated — once again wear masks indoors in places where transmission of COVID-19 is “substantial” and “high.” That goes for most of the country.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a news conference, “In recent days I have seen new scientific data from recent outbreak investigations showing that the delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that cause COVID-19. This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations. This is not a decision that we or CDC has made lightly.”
When the CDC lifted mask restrictions for vaccinated Americans in May, there was a sense that the country had turned the corner in the pandemic. Travel picked up across the nation, sports arenas and stadiums opened to full capacity and people started returning to restaurants, bars and movie theaters.
But the delta variant and a stall in vaccinations have again put the country on alert.
Along with anxiety about what is happening with COVID-19, another emotion is settling in for some. The New York Times’ Roni Caryn Rabin writes, “As coronavirus cases resurge across the country, many inoculated Americans are losing patience with vaccine holdouts who, they say, are neglecting a civic duty or clinging to conspiracy theories and misinformation even as new patients arrive in emergency rooms and the nation renews mask advisories.”
The Washington Post’s COVID edict
Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi tweeted Tuesday that, in a memo to staff, Post publisher Fred Ryan said all employees will be required to show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 “as a condition of employment.” There are exceptions for documented medical conditions and religious concerns.
The Post is planning to return to the offices in September.
Meanwhile, those who cover the White House, as well as White House staff, are expected to start wearing masks again inside the White House.
Chuck Todd: Media should have fought back harder
NBC News political director and “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd did in an interview with The Verge’s Nilay Patel and addressed a number of issues, including the state of media in today’s very partisan country and the idea that the media has a liberal bias.
“I think objectivity and fairness are not the same thing in some ways,” Todd said. “You can’t define objectivity as sort of being equal, that we know. You can’t balance the truth, that we know. So you have to be fair and have an open mind. Where we did get lost in this, and this sort of happened to mainstream media in particular, is that we did let Republican critics get in our heads, right? The Republicans have been running on, ‘There’s a liberal bias in the media.’ And talk about, if you say something long enough, there are liberals who say there’s a liberal bias in the media when you see polling now.”
Todd went on to say, “But now the Republicans have subsumed all of this and it’s turned into this. We should have fought back better in the mainstream media. We shouldn’t (have) accepted the premise that there was liberal bias. We should have defended. I hear the attacks on fact-checkers where they fact-check Republicans six times more than they fact-check Democrats. Yeah. Perhaps the Republicans are being factually incorrect more often than the Democrats. We ended up in this both-sides trope. We bought into the idea that, oh my God, we’re perceived as having a liberal bias. And I think for particularly the first decade of the century, I’d say mainstream media overcorrected. And we bought into the Fox motto of ‘balance.’ And it’s like, Jesus, there’s no balance, they need the truth. There’s fairness, that’s different than balance. And so in that sense, this is why we’re in this defensive posture today.”
Speaking of the media and objectivity …
Dan Abrams talked about his upcoming nightly prime-time news on NewsNation in a podcast with Mediaite’s Aidan McLaughlin. (Abrams is the founder of Mediaite.)
Abrams told McLaughlin, “I think that one of the reasons that people don’t trust the media is because so many cable news hosts and others claim they’re objective. And people don’t believe them. So I’m not going to fake objectivity. I’m going to say here’s where I’m coming from. Here’s what I think on this. But I may be wrong. So now you know, audience. So there’s no hidden bias.”
Abrams’ show debuts in September.
NBC Universal jumping into the stream
NBCU News Group is making a serious investment into its streaming and digital operations. It announced Tuesday that it will add 200 new positions and several hours of live, original content to NBC News NOW. The debut for all this is expected to be sometime in the fall.
According to NBC News, NBC News NOW averages 44 million views and 14 million hours watched per month. The new schedule will include a daily news program in primetime anchored by senior national correspondent Tom Llamas; a daily evening show and weekend special newsmagazine-type show anchored by Hallie Jackson; and an evening news analysis show hosted by Joshua Johnson.
In a note to staff, Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCU News Group, wrote, “As I’ve often said, when we combine the power of our portfolio of brands, across our many platforms, our reach and impact is unmatched. We aim to consistently innovate in how we deliver distinctive, high-quality journalism and this investment will allow us to keep meeting the needs of news consumers in this ever-changing media landscape. … We’re confident this investment will continue our growth and accelerate our success.”
Earlier this month, CNN announced plans to expand into streaming. Those plans included Kasie Hunt, who just recently left NBC News to join CNN to potentially play a key role in CNN’s streaming plans.
Biles’ big decision
The big news out of the Olympics on Tuesday was superstar gymnast Simone Biles pulling out of the team competition because she wasn’t in the right place mentally to compete. Biles said she has been struggling with stress, adding, “At the end of the day, I have to do what was right for me. It just sucks that it happened at the Olympic Games.”
Writing for The New York Times, Juliet Macur wrote, “In the many months leading to this summer, Simone Biles couldn’t wait for the Tokyo Olympics. Not for them to start. For them to end. The weight she carried as the face of the sport had become a burden. And the wear and tear on her body had become what she called ‘unreal,’ with the pain in her ankles making every excruciating step a reminder of how unforgiving gymnastics can be.”
The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga wrote, “Here’s the problem with establishing yourself as the best at your chosen profession — the best mechanic, the best cheesemaker, the best accountant, the best gymnast: Maintaining that standard over weeks and months and years takes its toll, even if we can’t see it. The customers, the public, know only that standard, and the job is to continue to deliver, full stop. That is a burden, regardless of the trade. At the wrong time, it can become crippling.”
That’s apparently what has happened with Biles. And Biles isn’t the only athlete who is dealing with mental well-being issues.
Svrluga wrote, “Really, by now, we should see this all coming. As much as NBC hypes its Olympic programming back home as a pick-me-up, it’s impossible for nightly three-hour television shows to fully examine and explain what happens in the four years — excuse me, five years — between appearances in the public conscience. Sports are a joy until they’re a job, and the sum of it all — the work, the hype, the hope, the standard, the expectation — can easily be too much. Mix in the special sauce of a pandemic and the country’s racial reckoning, and collapse should be more predictable.”
Another sports buyout in Philly
Philadelphia Inquirer baseball columnist Bill Brookover wrote a farewell column this week after accepting a buyout. Crossing Broad’s Kevin Kinkead writes that Brookover joined the Inquirer in 2000. Brookover was mostly a baseball writer at the Inquirer, but also had a short stint covering the NFL. As Kinkead notes, Brookover is just the latest from the Inquirer’s talented sports staff to accept a buyout. The others include Les Bowen, Paul Domowitch, Ed Barkowitz, Marc Narducci, and Frank Fitzpatrick.
In his final column, Brookover wrote about his love of baseball, writing, “Baseball, for all its problems, is still a great game. It’s just not the king any more and it could use some corrections. That’s OK, because I still love it.”
- Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton with “Small steps, but: Most big American newspaper newsrooms are now led by someone other than a white man.”
- Changes at The Daily Beast. Lachlan Cartwright said on Twitter that he is moving from a reporter to editor at large. He is replacing Lloyd Grove, who is retiring after more than four decades in journalism.
- Best moment of the Olympics so far: the reaction back in Alaska after 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby shockingly won the 100-meter breaststroke.
- The latest from Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple: “With bogus NSA story, Tucker Carlson assumes control of Fox News.”
In Tuesday’s newsletter, I incorrectly said that Fox News’ Steve Doocy asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki whose fault it was that COVID-19 numbers were going in, as Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “the wrong direction.” It was Fox News’ Peter Doocy who asked the question.
- The Associated Press’ Jason Dearen with “Inside a KKK murder plot: Grab him up, take him to the river.”
- Politico Magazine’s Natasha Korecki with “‘What’s Covid?’ Why People at America’s Hardest-Partying Lake Are Not About to Get Vaccinated.”
- My latest favorite podcast is about the groundbreaking careers of the late movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. It’s an eight-part series by The Ringer’s Brian Raftery. The first two episodes are out. Go here for a story and the opening episode.
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More resources for journalists
- Bring a Poynter Expert to You
- Census Stories Beyond the Numbers (Seminar) — Aug. 11 at 2 p.m. Eastern
- Diversity Across the Curriculum (Seminar) — Apply by Sept. 26.
The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.